Creating great quality food obviously runs in the family for Natasha Sclater.
"My granny was heavily involved in the WRI and she had her own hamper company, so maybe it’s just in the blood," she says. The ladies of the WRI - Women’s Rural Institute – have long been revered for the quality of their produce, and granny would no doubt approve of the career path that Natasha has chosen to follow.
Along the narrow, flagstone streets of Stromness, Natasha and her seven-year-old daughter Ella are on a delivery run. School has just finished for the day and children rush past on bikes and on foot, clattering up lanes and shattering the stillness of the afternoon.
"Little House Larder was set-up in 2018," says Natasha. "We started with jams and chutneys and it just progressed from there. Friends used to say to me 'why are you not selling this?’ so I thought I'd give it a go. The process of getting going was quite lengthy, but since then it’s just grown."
And while the initial range of preserves is still an important part of the business, Natasha launched a new product towards the end of 2019, one which has really taken off. Her grazing boxes have been a huge hit. "It’s basically a cheese and charcuterie grazing board," says Natasha. "It can be vegetarian or deli meats, a selection of cheese, crackers, chutney and fresh fruit."
The boxes are works of art in themselves. They’d almost be too good to eat - if it wasn’t for the fact they taste so great.
But expanding your business just as a global pandemic appears over the horizon is, of course, going to have a significant impact.
"We started the boxes in November 2019 and it was really picking up, then lockdown happened," remembers Natasha. "We didn’t do anything for a time then – we weren’t really sure what we could do. After a while we decided to start up again and see how it went, and it’s really grown hugely since then.
"I think during lockdown people were so keen to give a gift to friends, family or somebody who had maybe helped them out, and being a bit different the grazing boxes really appealed to folk. For us it was lovely to go and deliver a surprise to someone, that was really nice."
As we reach the south end of the town, we approach a blue painted door on a small pier. Mum knocks at the door before stepping back as Ella hands over the latest grazing box. It’s a beautiful afternoon, with just the merest hint of spring in the air, a far cry from just a few weeks ago.
The weekend surrounding Valentine's Day was one of the busiest periods for Natasha, with deliveries to be made across Orkney. But it also happened to be one of the snowiest weekends to be seen in the islands for around a decade.
"That was quite crazy," she laughs. "But we managed to get everybody’s orders out. A lot of people came and met me halfway, and in the end it was a huge success."
The future of Little House Larder doesn't stop there, though. "We’re launching a postal grazing service at the moment," says Natasha. "We’ve sent some off to foodie friends to see how it works. We’re just always keen to keep developing the business, and I think the response we’ve had over the past year or so has really given us the confidence to take those kinds of steps and not be afraid to try something different."